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Crane, Drills Help Ensure Safe Drinking Water in S.C.

Tue March 22, 2011 - Southeast Edition
Peter Hildebrandt

An environmental scientist with a South Carolina consulting engineering and scientific firm is not the first thing that catches the eyes of motorists whizzing by an active temporary job site within a few feet of a busy four lane road in Rock Hill, S. C. But years ago, just across the road, there was a filling station that had developed a leaky underground gas tank.

Now the area has periodic drilling done to determine whether or not the leaking fuel has stabilized underground or traveled outside the boundaries gathered during previous testing. The consultants do work throughout the state of South Carolina, which authorizes work through the EPA’s Underground Storage Tank Program. In some cases, the consultants may be working for a private oil company and investigating the extent of the leak.

These environmental consultants contract to SAEDACCO (South Atlantic Environmental Drilling and Construction Co. Inc.) in Fort Mill, S.C., to come out with their mobile drill rigs or track-mounted drill rigs to dig shallow wells to 35 or 40 ft. (10.6 to 12 m). They also may dig some deeper ones, all as part of assessing the horizontal and vertical extent of the contaminant plume that exists in the groundwater.

SAEDACCO is a southeast regional environmental services company that specializes in providing direct push, drilling, construction and remediation services for the environmental industry. They provide construction service from the initial site investigation through the remediation phase.

The company was founded in 1993 and has established itself as a provider of investigation and remediation services to the environmental and engineering consulting industry throughout the Southeastern United States. It is a member of the National Ground Water Association. Their drilling and construction supervisors have more than 15 years of experience each. These professionals are all 40 hour OSHA certified and medically monitored.

Pete Byer, SAEDACCO owner, has been involved in this type of work for more than 25 years. They’ve dealt with the project manager of the environmental consultants for perhaps the last 10 years, according to Byer.

“Most of the water obtained for this community is from surface water, from such sources as the Catawba River which is treated water,” said Byer. “But such groundwater problems as the contaminant plume from this source have the potential to impact private water supply wells. There is generally a high level of concern when the receptor might be a stream, water well or some type of water body nearby that could potentially impact users in the area. This is determined by defining the overall size of the plume, seeing which direction it’s moving and what potential receptors are going to be in its path.”

According to the EPA’s Office of Underground Storage Tanks Web site, there are approximately 600,000 underground storage tanks (USTs) nationwide that store petroleum or hazardous substances. There is a lot of need for such testing and research and a lot of issues all over the place, according to Byer, both in areas where homes are hooked up to public water supplies and also in rural areas.

“You can be out in the country, out in the middle of nowhere and then lo and behold there on that corner is the gas station or dry cleaners and they’ve had their environmental impacts because they’ve been there so long and everybody in the area is on their own private well. The next thing you know, they’ve got a water supply well at a house with a strong chemical odor because it’s been pulling that contamination into it for years.”

Such work is a big part of SAEDACCO’s business, but it also has jobs in such sites as industrial facilities, military bases, energy and power facilities — including coal and nuclear power plants. Some 50 percent of its business revolves around the leakage issues involved with underground storage tanks.

“I’m not sure exactly how many years ago this particular leak here in this high volume traffic road occurred,” said Byer. “But it was some time ago. Once the wells are in, those are monitored on a quarterly basis, taking water samples from out of those wells to assess whether it’s getting better or getting worse. If it is found that clean wells are now seeing impact, it might be necessary to put in a well further out to see what’s going on.”

SAEDACCO has a total of nine mobile drill rigs. These include: a 2000 Gus Pech Brute — Air, Auger, Mud; a 2002 Gus Pech Brat — Air, Auger, Mud, Rock Coring; a 2004 Mobile B-57 — Auger, Mud, Rock Coring; a 2005 Diedrich D-50 — Track ATV, Auger, Mud, Rock Coring; a 1998 Diedrich D-50 — Track ATV Auger, Mud, Rock Coring; a 2007 AMS Power Probe 9500 VTR Track ATV — Auger, Direct Push, a 2010 Geoprobe 7822 DT Track ATV — Direct Push; and a 1999 GeoProbe 54 DT Track ATV - Direct Push.

It also utilizes hollow stem augers (2.25 to 10.25 in. ID) air hammer (4 to 9 in.) Tricone drill bits (3-7/8 to 15 in.) drill rods (AW, NW, 3-1/2 and 4-1/2 in.) automatic SPT hammers, H & N series conventional rock core tooling and inflatable packers (3 to 8 in.).

It also is involved with the remediation side of the business when these sites have to be cleaned up. For the remedial technology that it needs, the engineers will design a system.

Contamination at petroleum sites typically are going to be less than 100 ft. (30.5 m), according to Byer. On sites involving chlorinated compounds such as solvents, dry cleaning fluids and various cleaning agents, those can travel to depths of 200 to 300 ft. (61 to 91 m). Those compounds sink into the water table. Petroleum is lighter so it will stay in the water table’s upper parts.

The environmental consultant they work with sets up the locations that they need SAEDACCO to drill.

“They will say they want us to drill at this location, to this depth or that we need a well here and need samples of the various soils and subsoils present onsite,” explained Byer. “They spec out what they need and see what we’re doing out there as we perform all the physical construction work.”

SAEDACCO works with a variety of waste concerns. In the nuclear industry it deals with a great number of issues involving some complicated groundwater problems onsite and the very important work of monitoring what is out there.

It is also working with the tightening EPA requirements involved with the coal power industry and the wastes left behind. This too is important testing and important work needing to be done. Some of the companies involved are under serious scrutiny, as those wastes are having a number of serious impacts on groundwater involving particularly, heavy metal contamination. For SAEDACCO, discovering and monitoring what’s there onsite and below ground is all simply part of their job.

Just before leaving the intersection where the test drilling has taken place, the environmental scientist does not seem too concerned. He explained that the levels of petroleum in the ground have not spread or increased, monitoring today has yielded results not too far off from the last time the area was sampled. And later that day, when motorists pass through the same intersection all that is left are barrels to be picked up later. The cranes, mud-covered drills, trucks and heavy equipment are gone and unless someone had visited the site earlier in the day, it would be hard to say just what important work had been done only hours earlier. CEG

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